Keywords: Middle ages, Lordship, Knights, Peasants, Social change.
Aim of this article is to discuss the transformation of local societies in northern and central Italy around 1100, coinciding with the structuring of the territorial lordship in the countryside. The major change was the formation in the seigneurial villages of a privileged class of milites (knights), distinct and separate from the mass of simple rustici (peasants), subject to heavy burdens and levies. The difference between the members of the two groups
was emphasized by a series of rituals and social practices that differed from place to place, but everywhere the chief distinguishing factor was with the concrete ability to fight on horseback. Members of local societies could try to manipulate ceremonies and practices to gain (or to confirm) the status of milites, but ultimately the local territorial lords did maintain the ultimate control on the rules of social classification.